How can retailers put business analytics to good use?

In today's fast-paced business world, it's crucial for retailers to have a clear picture of their operations to stay competitive in the marketplace. Business intelligence tools can provide valuable insights into everything from inventory management to sales conversion, making it easier to refine strategies and make changes that will drive growth. 

Collect the right data
According to Practical Ecommerce contributor Jerry Jao, it's important to know which information can prove useful and which will return negligible results. By refining the data sets being used, retailers will have more time to delve into the analytics that will make a bigger impact on operations. It also helps to refine the data being collected, as too much information can slow down analytics, waste space in storage systems and create security risks.

"Remember, the best defense against breaches is to not have data to steal in the first place," Jao wrote. "If you don't need it, don't collect it."

Analyze customer behavior
A BI solution can help retailers chart customer behavior. By looking at metrics such as the time of day or season certain items are sold, it can be easier to determine when to run promotions on particular goods. For instance, a convenience store operator recently explained at a user conference panel in Florida that the company tracked sales of roller-grill foods such as hot dogs and found that sales declined after lunchtime, according to CSP Daily News. The store could use this information to determine how much product they would make available at certain times of day to reduce waste and save money, and this same process can be applied for virtually any product. For instance, clothing retailers may not think twice about pushing swimwear in warmer months and coats and sweaters in the winter, but other items, such as purses or hats, may be a bit harder to pinpoint.

Don't forget about outside data
Just as it is important for businesses to have a clear understanding of their operations, they also need to pay attention to their customer base. From surveying shoppers to tracking their interaction with a company's social media channels, retailers can collect and analyze data to better understand the target audience. This can not only show retailers what marketing campaigns and sales are more effective than others, but clue them in to what changes customers would like to see. If the customer service department is not living up to consumer expectations, analyzing social media data can help businesses narrow down and solve the issue.

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